Transition From a Street Vendor to an Entrepreneur, Story Revealed at GEW 2014

Chetan Bhandari talks about his journey

The fifth day of GEW 2014 was marked with story-sharing session by Mr. Chetan Bhandari. The session was held at Central College by Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation.

Baje ko Sekuwa was initially an endeavor of Mr. Bhandari’s father. His father was passionate about cooking. While he was working in India as a laborer, he had traveled to different places and honed his cooking skills. Back in the village, during the festivals and celebrations, the villagers would ask his father to make some Sekuwa (skewered barbecued meat) out of the meat. The villagers really cherished the dish.

Then one day, while in Kathmandu, his father wanted to go to the airport to see some bigger planes that never flew in the village skies. On the way back, he saw people selling tea, potatoes in and around the airport. It was then that the idea of Baje ko Sekuwawhich was not  called so then- emerged. He noticed that the airport served as a workplace for many people, including army-men, Nepal Airlines Corporation-officials, customs officials. So he thought, if only he could put up a stall around airport, there were ample potential clients.

The startup had its own predicaments. The sale didn’t amount much but he carried on. By the third month, the sale of sekuwa reached up to ten kilograms per day. It was around this point that the enterprise got its name. Then one day, young Bhandari witnessed an incident which decided the fate of Baje ko Sekuwa. The local authorities were chasing away his parents from the airport premises as street-vending was against the law. The business was doing very good, earning around Rs.30,000 a month, which was three times what his father had initially hoped for. So in that moment, Mr. Bhandari felt that it would not be a wise decision to stop such a profitable enterprise. So, he leased land and built shutter in Sinamangal. Then he shifted the family business to the new dimension.

Still, he was only pursuing his education while his father ran the business. While he was doing his MBA, he had applied for a job. He was selected and was about to join the workplace in about two weeks. At that moment, his father wanted to go visit some religious places in India. So he had to take care of Baje ko Sekuwa for as long as his father would be away. Until then, he could not join his new job. This was still not a bad deal for Mr. Bhandari, as he shares.

While taking charge of Baje ko Sekuwa, he made a lot of changes. He introduced systematic record-keeping at the restaurant. He started economizing his resource mobilization, and also handled a few mishaps that his workers back then would conduct, in the hopes of some extra tips. He began to be actively involved in each and every activity that would be carried out in the restaurant, unlike his father, who would let the workers run the things around on their own. Another important thing he did was that he started communicating with his workers about the work and their salaries. Consequently, he also introduced various kinds of incentives for his workers to boost up the efficiency.

By the time his father returned, he had learned the tricks of the business and had already transformed into a devout businessman. He would now act as a coordinator and a supervisor and would hire as many people as required to cater to the growing demand of the market. In the meantime, one of the competitors opened up a new restaurant opposite the customs building. Given that it could create a direct threat to his business by taking away his clients-most of whom were customs officials and the airport region was where the enterprise came into being, he then opened up a new branch around airport. Then in less than a year, he opened up a new branch in Naya Bazaar. Today, there are 6 outlets of Baje ko Sekuwa in different parts of the capital and employs 250 people.

Looking back, he finds it strange how small things matter and how much it transforms a person’s life. He wonders if there would ever be a Baje ko Sekuwa, if he had never seen the police chasing away his parents. He wonders if he would ever be a proud chairman of such a big and famous restaurant chain in Kathmandu if he never had the opportunity to handle Baje ko Sekuwa on his own while his father was away. He values the role of competition in any enterprise. After all, the first branch itself was established out of competition.

Mr. Bhandari proudly admits how in the early days of Baje ko Sekuwa, he would find no place to   open up a new branch at or how he would not be granted loans by just any bank, but how home-owners and banks now approach him personally to lease out their homes and land and grant him huge amounts of loan.

Mr. Chetan Bhandari is a very concerned citizen. He imports around 95% of goats he needs to run his business from India. Being an agricultural country in itself, he is concerned why Nepal cannot supply enough resources to its own domestic industries. He has even carried out a research in certain places of Nepal and has found that there are certain regions in Nepal that are very suitable for animal husbandry. He has made plans on working together with locals of  few villages. In the first phase, he plans on making people of those specific villages aware of the potential of their geographic location, then teach them about different kinds of farming. In the second phase, he plans on guaranteeing the farmers for ample market for their produces via purchase agreements of their meat and different organically grown vegetables. In this way, he hopes to give his knowledge and profit making tricks back to the society.

The session continued with the questions from the BBA students to Mr. Bhandari.

Q. Have you ever thought about expanding your business to foreign countries as an international chain? If you have, could you also tell us what plans you have?

A. I have in fact, been receiving requests for opening up new branches of Baje ko Sekuwa in different parts of Nepal. So on that regard, we have already given franchise out the business to Pokhara in the first phase. An MOU has also been signed in Pokhara.

Ongoing international, a person has approached me with a proposal to open up a branch in Macau as well. I am planning on trying out this franchising model there, too.

Q. In your case, your father had already started a business. So it was easier for you to get into the business. Today there are youths like us who want to become entrepreneurs but our fathers are not necessarily successful businessmen. What do you suggest to young people like us on whether to follow our own dreams or do the same thing as our fathers are doing?

A. First thing, I was involved in Baje ko Sekuwa since the very early days. It is just a matter of how actively I was involved in it. It is only a little later that I took charge of the business, but I had always been involved. So it is not like I inherited a successful business from my father. I played my own part in creating it.

On what young people should do, it is not really a matter of what your father is doing. No matter what you choose to do, be serious. Do proper research, set goals, be industrious and be positive. Things will turn out just fine.

Q. When you first took charge of Baje ko Sekuwa for the one month that your father was away, you had already been guaranteed a job somewhere else. But later, you stuck to Baje ko Sekuwa and left the job altogether. On what basis did you make this decision?

A. Well, it was not a very hard decision for me. When I realized that I can make more money by selling just the goat-brain than I can make by taking the job, it was very clear what I had to do. After all, we run business to make money. All I had to do was analyze which profession was more profitable to me. By the time my father returned, I had already made up my mind that I would take charge of the business and expand it to higher levels.

Q. What are you doing as a part of your Corporate Social Responsibility?

A. I have been helping educate few children from my home-town. On a longer term, I have plans on educating and training villagers on efficient animal husbandry and organic farming and consequently enhancing their productivity. What I must also add at this point is that later on, I want to buy their products to make more money for myself, through my business. So, it is a win-win situation for both parties.

Q. What things do you believe should a young start-up entrepreneur keep in mind, while doing business in Nepal?

A. Dream on and practice doing something.